Keeping students engaged, thinking about impact on seniors

(Posted April 16, 2020)

By Josephine Birdsell , Staff Writers

London City Schools staff members are working to keep students engaged in coursework as virtual classes continue during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

In the second and third weeks of distance learning, roughly 80 percent of the district’s students logged onto virtual classes and completed coursework.

Student engagement percentages offer a “point in time snapshot” of district efforts, said Dr. Lou Kramer, superintendent.

Determining how best to keep students engaged in virtual classrooms is a matter of “trial and error,” he said.

The district has worked to provide students the tools necessary to log onto virtual classrooms and complete online coursework.

Prior to the district’s shutdown, the district provided computers to all students in grades six through 12, allowing for a smoother transition to online coursework.

Following the shutdown, the district worked to extend a computer lending program into the elementary school to allow younger students to complete online coursework, as well.

The district bought 400 new computers, 322 of which have been distributed to elementary students so far.

The district is also working to supply WiFi hotspots to families without a reliable Internet connection. Qualifying students, who are eligible for free and reduced lunches, will be able to access the WiFi network through tech support hours, beginning within the next two weeks.

Further information will be released through district communications when the program is available.

The district is also working to adjust curriculum to meet students’ ability to complete work from home.

“Our teachers have done a great job in transitioning from a traditional format to an online format,” Kramer said.

Teachers must adjust course pacing and reduce the amount of work they assign in a traditional teaching format to keep from overwhelming students, he said.

The district is enforcing normal procedures to check on students who miss class or fail to submit coursework, including phone calls to parents.

“While there have been some growing pains, everyone (faculty and staff) is working together to overcome those,” said Darryl Brown, board president.

Seniors

High school seniors are feeling the impact of COVID-19. Here is how London City Schools is addressing that impact. Kramer notes that decisions on these and other operational matters are being made with the best information possible at this time.

Eligibility: House Bill 197 gives schools the right to grant a diploma to a student if the student is “on track” to graduate. London High School is using the end of the third quarter to make this determination. Staff members have been reaching out to students to let them know their graduation status.

Community service: Requirements to complete community service are waived for this year’s seniors.

Graduation honors: The first seven semesters (not this last semester) will be used to determine graduation honors such as valedictorian, salutatorian and Top 20.

Senior signing day: Originally scheduled for May 1, senior signing day has been postponed. A virtual signing day is in the works.

Senior exams: Senior exams are still scheduled as originally planned.

Senior awards: Senior awards are currently scheduled for 7 p.m. May 19 in the high school auditorium.

Commencement: Commencement remains scheduled for May 24 in the high school gymnasium. The date, time, location, and process of holding commencement is subject to change.

“It’s going to happen. We just don’t know what it’s going to look like,” Kramer said.

Several options are being weighed. One idea, he said, is to hold prom and commencement on the same weekend sometime this summer.

“It’s important to keep in context that our seniors and all of us recognize (the pandemic) as a historic event,” Kramer said.

“It is disappointing the seniors aren’t going to experience the same things in the same manner as has been done in the past. But if we can keep people healthy and get through this together, they’re going to share the memories at their 10th and 20th reunions that they were the class that were graduates during a pandemic.”

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